Edmonton in the Golden Age
The economic expansion of the golden age was partly due to ongoing oil exploration and development. This discovery phase reached its peak in 1952 when 551 wells were drilled. The last major discovery of a conventional source of oil during this era was the Pembina field, located 85 miles (137 kilometres) southwest of Edmonton. The first large-scale efforts to develop the oil sands in the Fort McMurray area began in 1964 with the construction of the Great Canadian Oil Sands plant. It went into production in 1967.
Added to the direct economic benefits of the oil boom were increased construction and expanded educational facilities. Student enrolment increased at the University of Alberta and its infrastructure grew. New additions to the campus included the Henry Marshall Tory Building (1966), which was named after the first president of this institution.
The Northern Alberta Institution of Technology (NAIT) opened in 1963. NAIT's courses were designed to train students in practical ways that were directly applicable to the job market.
New provincial government services and jobs also contributed to Edmonton's booming economy. Existing departments such as Highways expanded to meet the increased transportation needs of the province. A new department, Culture, Youth & Recreation, was created to deal with the development of Alberta's cultural and historical resources.
The demand for housing went up as Edmonton's population grew from 159,631 in 1951 to 551,314 in 1982. Unlike the undeveloped subdivisions of pre-World War One, the new subdivisions were rapidly filled with new arrivals. The effect on Edmonton's boundaries was dramatic. Since 1917, city boundaries had remained unchanged simply because the pre-World War One boom had created an oversupply of undeveloped land. Fringe communities, such as Beverly and Jasper Place, remained without many of the city services. By the 1950s, however, the mood of Edmonton (along with that of the entire nation) shifted to expansion, since most of the land from the boom had been used up. Extending Edmonton's boundaries resumed in 1947 with the annexation of Pleasantview and continued until 1982, which increased Edmonton's size from 40.8 to 270.5 square miles (65.7 to 435.3 square kilometres).
Real estate was an excellent investment during the 1960s and particularly in the 1970s. The widespread land speculation evident before World War One was replaced by land investment that was actually developed for residential, commercial or industrial use. According to the City of Edmonton Planning Department, the real value of property increased 36 percent during the years 1962 to 1969 and 92 percent in the 1970s. This increase resulted in the price of the average home in Edmonton going from $12,556 in 1962 to $91,438 in 1981.
This article is extracted from John Gilpin, Responsible Enterprise: A History of Edmonton Real Estate & the Edmonton Real Estate Board. (Edmonton: Edmonton Real Estate Board, 1997). The Heritage Community Foundation and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation would like to thank John Gilpin and the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton for permission to reproduce this material.